I am not in this paleo/ancestral food/exercise game for anything other than to feel good, be happy and live long. But I am a competitive person, particularly with myself. Whether it's physically or mentally, I don't think you have ever reached your best, and you should always keep striving for improvement. And so... here I am at this seemingly contradictory place with exercise: I have no specific exercise goals, but I still enjoy setting PRs (personal records).
Strangest of all, in some sort of parallel to that old line about "if you love something, set it free," I have been noticing that ever since I ditched any specific exercise goals, I set a lot more of those PRs.
See, it used to be, back in my "totally drunk on CrossFit" early days in the gym, and particularly on deadlift days, I was there with nearly the sole purpose of setting a PR. If I didn't, that training day was, in at least some sense, a failure.
Idiotic, right? But, yeah, that scorched-earth training policy was where my head was at. And even when the durrrr realization hit me that PRs are special occurrences, not day-to-day events (except maybe for the extreme newbie), I definitely still was trying to PR on certain days. Again, particularly on deadlift days, I would go into the gym with a PR goal. And if I went in with a PR mindset and didn't achieve that level of success that day, I would slap a big fat "failure" sticker on my whole damn day. It's a very binge-and-purge/extremist mentality, and I have learned that it's not conducive to success, physical or mental.
It's different now. I try to train more intuitively. Every day of a particular lift *begins* the same, but where that lift ends up depends on how things go. I have standard warmup weights for every lift, and I go through that part of the drill mechanistically. But then, when things start getting heavy, instead of pre-setting a target goal weight (that used to almost always be a PR for that lift), I try to listen to my body. What was heavy, or not-so-heavy, last week may or may not feel the same today.
And the double-secret Zen trick to the whole deal? I have been actually setting *more* PRs with the intuitive-training mindset than the old "today I will PR" one. Even better, every day of lifting is a success, because I am just there to do my best *that* day. And that just requires a solid, sensible effort.
Is this all feel-good slop/pablum for the brain? Sure. A little, anyway. But attitude matters, and "search and destroy" just doesn't work for me every day. In fact, it just messes me up, in body and mind.
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